Voyager Shadows: Poor little rich girl
*A/N: This story picks up from Chapter 4 of 'Jaiden's Tale' directly after Jeffrey leaves Bogg to complete his Shadow mission.
Chapter 1: Cloak and dagger
"We all have a tendency to get attached to people and things, but we can't always have it our way. Shadowing is a covert business that requires a lot of heart, which you have. But sometimes it requires extreme sacrifice. If we don't understand that, then we have no business doing this work."
"And that's my sacrifice, Bogg. I want to sacrifice my life to raising Jaiden. Stop trying to talk me out of it! Or maybe you just wish that someone would have talked you out of raising me?"
Phineas Bogg couldn't get his partner's stinging words out of his mind. Ever since Jeffrey was a kid he knew precisely how to cut him to the heart…
"Here you go, try your hand at it, kid." Billy said and offered Jeffrey the gun.
"I can't…" Jeffrey sighed.
"Bogg won't let me."
"Hey, I don't want to get between a boy and his father." The outlaw replied.
"He's not my father!"
"But he tells you what to do."
By the time they met the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid, Phineas already loved Jeffrey and harbored fatherly instincts toward him. He scarcely hid his displeasure at Jeffrey's attitude that day. Jeffrey always managed to dredge up parenting issues or questioned Phineas' love for him whenever they argued. It was his surefire way to end the disagreement and left Phineas sulking for days.
Phineas wouldn't let on to Jeffrey how much this last accusation hurt him. But he understood that even after 15 years, the pain of losing his parents so tragically was still an open wound for him.
"We all put on a bold face, but none of us ever really get over it, or learn to accept it. It's so unnatural." Phineas pondered.
He glanced at the clock on the wall; Susan never showed. The candles melted and dinner turned cold. The phone rang and Phineas jumped up to grab it.
"Phineas…" A woman mumbled and coughed. "It's me."
"Susan, what's the matter? You sound terrible."
He held the phone away from his ear when she blew her nose. "I know. I'm sorry I didn't call sooner, I left work early and took a nap but I just couldn't wake up." She sneezed and wheezed. "I caught a bad flu. My throat aches too." She cleared her throat and sighed miserably. "I feel a fever and body ache coming on."
"I'm sorry, Susan. Is there anything I can do for you? Would you like me to bring you soup? Do you need medicine?"
"Oh, no thank you. Ned from Voyager Medical is stopping by with antibiotics. He's inoculated to the moon. I don't want you to get sick though; you have important assignments. I hope you didn't go through too much trouble tonight."
Phineas looked disappointed at the stew dish, colorful salad bowl and home-baked bread. "No, Sue. No trouble at all. Just dinner as usual." He licked his thumb and forefinger and snuffed out the candles. "If you need anything, give me a call or contact me on the communicator."
"Thank you, Phineas. You're a doll." She coughed loudly before hanging up.
Phineas looked around the complex. Now that he cleaned it loomed empty. Voyager Headquarters preferred the walls painted a soft light beige, the better to match a resident's color preferences with additional furnishings. Phineas and Jeffrey owned necessary furniture and comfort chairs, but they chose not to be weighed down by too many personal belongings and useless bric-a-brac.
He ate some salad and a bowl of stew and dipped the bread in gravy, lost in thought. "Ned from Voyager Medical…He's moving in on my turf? Figures."
Ned McGowan – tall, tanned, and dark blonde with sparkling teeth. Jeffrey called him 'white as butter.' But sometimes Jeffrey called Phineas the same. Ned also had a goofy side that revealed itself sporadically. When he and Phineas were younger, others used to confuse them, despite Ned's brown eyes. Phineas and Ned shared classes and proved athletic rivals in everything from swimming to archery. Ned couldn't keep up with 'Phin the fin' at the pool and Phineas joked that Ned "ate his 'dust' bubbles." But Ned split arrows on the bullseye while Phineas missed it by a mile. Ned cracked that "Robin Hood would roll over in his grave and William would tell him he stunk." Ned wanted Susan's affections and Phineas didn't blame him.
"I'm acting like a teenager. Susan will make up her mind when she's ready. I guess it's time to get cracking on my mission."
He thumbed through Natalie Powers' thin file. The girl lived in the lap of luxury and attended the finest schools. She received straight 'A's, was elected squad captain of the cheerleading team, lead singer in the chorus, and the list went on. She participated in enough well-rounded extracurricular activities to make one's head spin – Drama club, poetry club, Tennis, Student Council. Phineas read between the lines, everything she did filled a gaping familial void and deep loneliness in her life.
Phineas skipped to her date of death. He held his cheek and a soft groan escaped him. Natalie Powers disappeared in June, 1964 after an end-of-school party went awry. Thirty years later land developers found her car deep in the wetlands with her remains still trapped inside. The coroner found no evidence of foul play and labeled it an accidental death at the request of her distraught father, Kevin Powers. He died less than a year after the gruesome discovery. Phineas couldn't look at the pictures of her remains for too long and shut the file.
"I'll be there sweetheart, this won't happen to you. I'll dive down there and drag you out myself." He murmured.
He smiled wistfully and picked up her school portrait. Behind her gentle green eyes and bubbly grin, Phineas detected an emotional hurt; something he caught every day in Jeffrey for the last fifteen years. He scanned the files and found the cause. Her mother Mary disappeared in 1961 – and was presumed dead in a charter plane crash and explosion. Unusual for a woman in the fifties, Mary became managerial assistant to the Governor in 1958. The plane was scheduled to land at one of his nomination rallies.
Kevin Powers was known as the Beer and Cheese King of Wisconsin. He owned three breweries and two highly successful cheese factories. His influence and social circle helped Mary's career along. The family lived in a mansion in a small affluent town called Spring Creek. A few months after the crash, Kevin remarried a much younger woman. The police never suspected Natalie's step-mother. But after Natalie disappeared the woman dropped out of the picture and Kevin never remarried.
"Poor girl probably had everything anyone can ask for, except time and attention from the people she needed most." He said regrettably.
After recalibrating his new omni and giving it a polish, Phineas cleared away the food and poured a small glass of red wine. He occasionally indulged in spirits, but never made it a habit. However, he was concerned with Jeffrey's growing penchant to turn to the bottle when missions got rough. He resolved to tread lightly on the subject. Right now Jeffrey's nerves were shaken over his decision to keep Jaiden.
The phone rang and startled him. A sexy voice whispered over the line.
"Phineas Bogg, this is Michelle Nelson. You remember me, don't you?"
Phineas cleared his throat. For twenty years, Michelle served as Top Administrator for the Tribunal. At fifty-years-old she still managed to turn even the youngest men to jelly. 'The big M' possessed the power to make or break any employee at Headquarters with the shake or nod of her lovely blonde head.
"Michelle, how could I forget? You convinced the Tribunal I was a Voyager worth my salt, but you never let me thank you properly." Phineas wanted to kick himself. That came out overtly suggestive.
Michelle laughed gaily. "The bouquet of roses and fine chocolate box wasn't enough? I don't think the Tribunal approved of half the 'thank yous' I've been offered. Honestly Bogg, I know quality when I see it, and you are quality. That's why I need you." Her voice lowered. "Can you meet me at my office now?"
Phineas blushed so hard he imagined she felt the heat through the receiver. "Sure I can, but its after hours, you know how strict the code…"
"Please Bogg, I'll give you clearance and I really have to talk to someone." She said more urgently. "Bring the Natalie Powers file with you. I'll be waiting."
Michelle hung up fast and Phineas stared dumbfounded at the phone. Headquarters kept every Voyager so busy, he didn't cross paths with Michelle for two years. He washed up and headed out with the file. Michelle's office was situated in the East wing of the Courthouse building where the Tribunal convened for vital meetings. He entered and the security guard nodded without asking for his ID.
He strode through the darkened marble corridors. Candle sconces dotted the walls, eerily lighting large paintings of founding Voyagers and inspirational historical figures from earth. The backdrop sent shivers down his spine. He stopped to gaze at a painting added five years earlier.
"Good old Wildman made the wall of fame. Glad we had the chance to know and learn from you." He smiled sadly. Isaac Wolfstein died in his tiny, cluttered apartment in lower Manhattan in 1940, but he didn't die alone. Phineas and Jeffrey tended to his needs after a heart attack and kept up his spirits sharing years worth of Voyager adventures.
Phineas continued his brief tour. Compared to the other futuristic sectors, the Courthouse stood out like a relic from the Victorian era. Jeffrey liked to use the term, Steampunk. He passed the giant oak doors of the courtroom and cringed. He hoped to never face trial again.
Michelle's office was a stone's throw away. Phineas poked his head into the room, the flickering sconces created a warm orange glow. She ushered him in and quickly closed the door.
"Right on time, Bogg. Thanks."
"I've learned to make a habit of punctuality. A Voyager can't waste time when lives hang in the balance."
She bit her lip. "Now I know I made the right decision calling you."
Phineas cocked an eyebrow and took a seat in a green leather Cotswold chair. He noticed her ornate, gold laptop open and saw an image of Natalie. Michelle drew her curtain.
"Why all the cloak and dagger business?" He asked while she paced nervously. "Did I do something wrong and you're trying to be a good sport and warn me before the Tribunal gets wind of it? I'm very busy and I like things to be explained upfront."
"Bogg, I know this meeting is strange, but my request is so vital that I did do something very wrong."
Phineas perked up intrigued. "Really? What? You're squeaky clean. Michelle 'mopped the floors' with corrupted Voyagers."
She wrung her hands and removed her glasses. Phineas always admired her cat-like powder blue eyes, which she often hid behind cat-like black frames.
"I hacked into the Shadow database and added Natalie's file, then I upped her to be your next candidate. Phineas…she's my daughter."
The news shocked him. He searched her face and noticed similarities between her and Natalie's photo onscreen. The mother and daughter shared blonde hair and petite frames.
"I had no idea. I'm very sorry, Michelle."
She took the file from him, but refused to open it. "I nearly vomited when I saw her like…never mind."
Phineas rose concerned and gently led her to her chair.
"Don't focus on that. Just start from the beginning and tell me what I can do."
"Thank you. My real name is Mary Kilroy. My father was the joker who started drawing 'Kilroy was here' all over the place during World War II. People still don't know where that graffiti fad originated and we never said a word. 'Nelson' is my mother's maiden name and Michelle was my aunt's name."
"Oh, I see. That cartoon was very clever."
Phineas remembered seeing the little bald headed drawing pop up around the army base at Pearl Harbor and Jeffrey tried to explain it was a National joke of the time. He chuckled slightly, remembering how he left his own 'Kilroy' drawing on an army jeep when he returned to see Jackie Knox.
"I've watched Natalie's time-line very carefully since the Voyagers plucked me and this disturbing red light popped up out of nowhere just a few days ago." She stifled a cry and reached for a tissue. "Even if you don't help me, promise you won't tell what I've done. Not even your partner."
Phineas was torn. If news of the offense spread, Michelle would lose her career and good standing. But she fought for him to stay when the Tribunal wanted to expel him for failing grades. "Michelle, I won't breathe a word. Jeffrey knows I have Natalie's case, but he doesn't need to know details. He's too involved with his own candidate right now."
He stood up and ran his hand through his hair. "I want to help you, but if the Tribunal found out it could cost us both dearly, maybe even banishment. They're already wary about me."
"After fifteen years of dedicated service to the cause? Phineas Bogg, you're still thinking like a young Turk, as Isaac Wolfstein used to say."
"Maybe, but the Voyagers carry a high code of ethics, and I've learned to respect it more. Was your daughter even considered for the candidate list? We could work with that and chalk it up to a clerical error if they find out…err, wait, so much for my ethics then. I'd still be lying for you."
Michelle dabbed her eyes and went over to him. She was a slender woman dressed smartly in a dark navy skirt suit. "No, she's not supposed to be a Voyager, but I have to save her life. Once you're clear in her time-zone, if the OCC discovers the error it will be too late. You'll be in the process of fixing a red-light and they'll be forced to keep you there on principle."
Phineas clutched the doorknob and glared at her. "You have this all worked out, don't you? Let me tell you something, Michelle, we all have tragedies in our past but very few have the luxury or power to go back and correct it. Why should you be any different? Or is it because you're top brass? That's not very fair."
He couldn't help thinking of Jeffrey's parents. He never forgot when Garth said at his trial that it would not change history if the boy's parents survived. The revelation stunned Phineas. It had to be a mistake on their part because they didn't completely review all historical documents at the time. Phineas never told Jeffrey and it sometimes ate at his conscience.
Michelle gripped his arm. "Bogg, you read the contents of the file, didn't you? You saw those horrible pictures! This was so sudden. I need to know what caused that red-light and why it's not processing at the OCC."
Phineas frowned. "It's not? That's very strange."
"You bet it is! But regardless, I can't let my baby girl die like that! I can barely eat or sleep or work just thinking how terrified she must have felt in that swamp, all alone and screaming for help, trying to break out, losing her air…then I remembered you…you're a swimming champion, you're strong, and I know you would rescue her in a heartbeat if you could."
Phineas lowered his head, wishing she didn't give him the same drowning image. He gently held her shoulders. "Michelle, don't do this to yourself." He backed away from the door resigned. "Give me more details about her and the mission. I'll go. If I have anything to say or do about it she'll live to be a hundred."
Michelle gasped for joy. She jumped up and kissed his cheek and hugged him. She smiled and took a seat again.
"Michelle is fine. I got used to it after twenty years."
"Michelle, why haven't you just gone back and told her the truth?"
"At the time the Tribunal didn't allow Voyagers to interfere with past lives or make deliberate contact with relatives. Too much time passed and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I still can't. My husband Kevin and I loved each other very much, but before I was plucked we had marital problems. He was extremely busy and away from home and…"
Michelle gulped and stared at the laptop photo. "I wasn't mother of the year. I was always running around and going on field trips of my own, trying to appease the Governor and keep his agenda straight. It was madness that kept me away from Natalie. Kevin felt the strain and he…well he had an affair."
Phineas couldn't imagine any man being unfaithful to a woman like Michelle, but every rose had its thorns and marriages rarely succeeded without communication and togetherness.
"What did you do when you found out?"
"I threatened to divorce him, but they were empty threats. I wanted to make it work and I know he did too. He didn't love that woman. I had one more political rally to attend and then we were going on a family vacation to sort our problems out. It never happened, and my new life started here. But Natalie…" Tears coursed down her cheeks. "Natalie was devastated. We were very close, and she hated Kevin for a long time when he married so soon after my 'death.' She didn't know about his affair. Barbara Walden was nothing but a gold-digger."
Phineas sat back but kept silent. It was not his place to judge or tell her what to do. Michelle wasn't looking to restore her marriage, but to save Natalie's life.
Michelle straightened up and put her glasses back on. She handed Phineas an itinerary.
"I have everything prepared. Your money, clothes, where you're to go, whom to speak too. Just leave it all in my hands. All you have to do is keep my daughter alive."
Phineas glanced at her wryly. "So, you did all this and assumed I would automatically say yes? You have a nerve, woman."
Michelle grinned sensuously at him. "I already knew you would say yes, honey. Phineas Bogg cannot pass up rescuing a damsel in distress, or refuse an attractive woman in need."
"Did you read that in my files?" He grinned.
"I'm privy to everything, including what's on that omni memory recorder before the image editors get a hold of it."
Phineas' eyes widened. "You're joking. The omni doesn't record every second of our Field missions. That's highly unethical. And those image editors are sworn to secrecy under oath. Not to mention they suffer field worker threats now and then."
"You'll never know, will you?" She teased and his face flared.
"Whatever you find on that omni I plead the fifth." He mumbled.
Michelle patted his back. "Bogg, I'm not blackmailing you. I know your character and your heart. That's why I chose you. You'll come through for Natalie, I have the utmost confidence in you."
Phineas left twenty minutes after a full briefing of the mission requirements. Michelle promised to bring his suitcase and necessary paperwork for him in the morning and he'd be set to go. He returned to the complex and left Jeffrey the note he promised.
Don't know when you'll see this, but I'm on my way to 1964. It's a big mission, but I can handle it. Giving lost kids a shoulder to lean on is my specialty. I hope you consider our talk. I know you'll do right by Jaiden because you love him. Be strong. No matter what, he needs you to set him on the right path. Remember what I said at the trial so long ago, "A Voyager's got to have spirit, so when everybody's telling you you're wrong you got the courage to fight back."
I'm not telling you you're wrong – maybe I'm wrong – but whatever it is, don't lose your spirit. There's a whole mess of people out there who need us. Also remember, "A Voyager's got to be able to make people take a new look at a situation, to give people the confidence to take that one extra chance." If my advice still counts for something, I hope you'll give him a chance to live his life the best way he knows how.
Green light kid, Love, Bogg.